The Eviction Process in Memphis, Tennessee

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The process to evict a tenant varies widely from place to place.  I have heard of some pretty cumbersome and time consuming proceedings in other parts of the country.  Here in Memphis, TN the process is fairly simple and I thought I would outline it in this article.   Perhaps your own jurisdiction’s process is similar, or it may be much more complicated.  Either way I hope this article can serve as a basic guide to the eviction process.

Let me start of by including the standard disclaimers.  I am not a lawyer.  The eviction process is a legal one and you should consult a competent attorney in your area to advise you.  Plus, every jurisdiction is different.  There are a myriad of local and state laws.  Heck, even the county next door to me falls under a different statute.  So be sure you know and are following all the applicable laws, ordinances and regulations.

Starting an Eviction in Memphis

In Memphis, TN the eviction process can start the day after a tenant is late paying rent.  At that time, either you or your attorney has to go to the courthouse to file what is call a Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED) Warrant.  This is a simple one page form that outlines who is to be evicted, where they are to be evicted from and how much they owe you.  It costs $98.50 to file the FED Warrant. (Here is a tip, when filing the FED always include the rent, late fees and legal expenses for the time going forward that will be spent in court and getting them out.  You can always lower your dollar amount in court, but you can not go above what you have filed for.  So plan ahead when asked what the judgment amount should be.)

Once you file the FED Warrant, you have to get it served.  In other words, you have legally let your tenant know that you are suing them in court for legal possession of your property and back rent.  They have to get notice of when to appear in court.  You can get a sheriff’s deputy to do this for you but I would recommend hiring a private process server.  The private process server costs a little more, about $20 to $30, but it is worth it.

The value of a private process server comes from the time it takes for them to get the notice served.  You want your process server to try to get personal service, that is, the actual tenant is informed of the suit by the process server. Several attempts may have to be made to serve the tenant in person.  So, if the process server knocks and no one answers, that is one attempt.  A private process server may come back the next day or even later that night to try again.  The sheriff may come back until next week.  See the value!  You may get your notice served in as little as two or three days with a private process server as opposed to three to four weeks with the sheriff.  Is it worth $20 to get your non-paying tenant out quicker?  Absolutely.  If you cannot get personal service, the notice can be affixed to the front door.  However this may affect your ability to get a monetary judgment later on.

Once notice has been served, a court date will be set.  This date will usually be about two weeks or so from the date of the service.  Your process server will let you know when your court date is.  Once you have your court date, free up your calendar.  Nothing else takes precedence over that court date.  Miss it, and your case is likely thrown out and you have to start the process all over again.

The Day of Court

When your court date arrives, be sure to show up on time.  In fact, show up early in case you get lost or can’t find a place to park.  Make sure you have all of your documentation, including your lease and evidence (such as invoices) of late rent payments, late fess and court costs.  Some judges will help you, but others will not.  So be sure you know what you are doing before you go into court.  If you are in doubt, hire a competent attorney to help you.

If you win your case you will get a judgment for possession of your property and for back rent, late fess, court costs, etc.  The judge will tell the tenant that they have ten days to leave the property.  After waiting 10 days (if the 10th day falls on a Saturday or Sunday you will have to wait until Monday), if your tenant has still not gotten the message and vacated your property, you have to file for a Writ of Possession and pay a $25 filing fee.  Once this Writ is issued (which is usually pretty quickly) then the “fun” can begin.

After the Court Date

Now you have to serve the Writ of Possession and take possession of your property.  If your tenant is still in the property, he will be removed along with all of his possessions.  There are a few private process servers that will do this type of service, but many will not.  They actually will defer to the sheriff on this one, since the badge and gun can really help when forcibly removing someone.

Whoever you use to serve the Writ of Possession, there are several things you will need to coordinate.  You will need several people to remove all of the belongings from the property.  Everything down to the last spoon has to be removed to the curb.  Sheriff’s deputies are not going to remove any items from the property.  They are there to serve notice and keep the peace.  So have some people lined up.  Also, be sure to have someone on hand who can change the locks and depending on the neighborhood, you may want to further secure the property by boarding up windows or removing HVAC equipment.  This process will cost about $200 to $500 depending on the amount of stuff to be removed, the time it takes to remove it and the amount of security you need.

Getting Additional Money from the Tenant

So there you have it.  You have gotten your property back.  You still need to go after the tenant for any back rent owed, but that is another story.  All in all, if everything goes your way, you may have the tenant out in about a month at a cost of $400 to $700.  If you use an attorney, add a few hundred dollars more.  And remember, those costs do not include the back rent you are owned, the additional costs you will incur to collect the back rent or the costs to rehabilitate your property after removing an angry tenant.  So when all is said and done, you are probably looking at a couple of thousand at least.  I think there are easier ways, but to each his own.

How Do YOU Evict in Your Area?

Let me know how the above process compares to the one where you live.  Memphis style evictions are fairly easy and straightforward (unless they file bankruptcy and Memphis ranks high for bankruptcy filings).  I know that is not the case in other parts of the country.  Share your experiences in the comments section.
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About Author

Kevin Perk is co-founder of Kevron Properties, LLC with his wife Terron and has been involved in real estate investing for 10 years. Kevin invests in and manages rental properties in Memphis, TN and is a past president and vice-president of the local REIA group, the Memphis Investors Group.

31 Comments

  1. JESSICA UNDERWOOD on

    I`M WRITING I WANT TO ASK A SERIOUS QUESTION ABOUT EVICTION WHEN A LANDLORD EVICT YOU DO YOU HAVE TO PAY THE LANDLORD THE COURT FEES AND ALL THE DIFFERENT PRICES DUE TO OTHER CHARGERS.

    • Kevin Perk

      Jessica,

      Usually, the landlord has a clause in their lease stating that the tenant is responsible for paying all attorney fees and court costs related to eviction, damages caused by the tenant and other matters. I know I use this clause. So the answer to your question would be yes if this clause is in the lease that the tenant signed.

      Hope this answers your question,

      Kevin

  2. Kevin,
    Thanks for the informative article. Sadly, I may have to use this knowledge in the very near future. My husband and I just purchased our very first, brand-spanking new (not!) mobile home park. Some of the tenants haven’t paid since MAY. Here we go….
    Darla

    • Kevin Perk

      Darla,

      Sounds like there is a new sheriff in town! :)

      Is the park in Memphis? If not, get to know your local laws. If you are new to the eviction process, hire proper representation. Judges can be really harsh if you do not know what you are doing and cost you a lot of time and money.

      Would love to hear about how things turn out. Please let us know.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Good luck!

      Kevin

    • Kevin Perk

      Wen,

      Not that I know of except you of course. It comes down to how much time do you want to spend on this. For me it is not much. My time is better spent. I would let someone else try and collect it.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Good luck!

      Kevin

  3. Kevin,

    We just went through this here in Shelby County. We take repossession of the property mid-month. Can you recomend a company locally to do a set out as they have not moved and it’s a five bedroom home?

    Thanks,
    Shelby

    • Kevin Perk

      Shelby,

      Those guys come and go, so I do not have a recommendation as I have not needed on in a while (knock on wood!).

      Did you use an eviction attorney? If so they most likely know someone or your process server may be able to help you.

      You can also join us a t our local reia meeting this week. I am sure someone there will be able to help you. If interested, send me a private message for details.

      Good luck,

      Kevin

  4. Hi Kevin,
    Is there a website in Tenn. where I can check to see if a person has any past evictions or felonies on their record? I’m in Colorado but the couple that wants to rent my house is from Tenn. After I evicted the last tenant, I found out that he had been arrested many times for domestic violence well as DUI. He tore the place apart and I had to replace the front door as well as all bedrooms , bathroom and closet doors due to his rages. I didn’t check him out like I should have–It was an expensive lesson to learn. I don’t want to make it again.

    • Kevin Perk

      Susan,

      A good tenant screening agency should be able to do a national search.

      You can also try to look at the courthouse records for the particular county they are from in Tennessee, but not all counties are online or easily searched.

      Good luck,

      Kevin

  5. Kevin,
    Thanks for creating this forum. I gave my tenant a 30 day notice of intent to terminate the lease effective 12/31/2013 and got absolutely no response. I followed with phone calls and texts and all went unanswered. So I went by the property today to see if there was any moving activity since this is the last weekend before the effective date. Since there was no activity I sensed that they are not planning to comply. They owed no rent but the house is in bad shape due to their neglect and abuse and in need of repair. What legal avenue do I have to get them out. Does filing a FED appropriate in this situation?
    Thanks.

    • Kevin Perk

      Teck,

      Please check with a competent attorney in your area as to the proper procedure for you to follow. If you are not careful things can really get messed up.

      Good luck,

      Kevin

  6. Kevin,

    I’ve looked online and saw that my landlord has filed on me on 12/23/13….and I try checking for a court date and none has been assigned yet and here it is the 9th of January my question is will I get served first before the court posts a date or will the court post a date before me getting served?…and I’ve never known the process to take this long. I’m in Memphis tn any info will help thanks

    • Kevin Perk

      Chris,

      “You have never known the process to take this long” How many times have you been evicted? LOL.

      You need to be served before your court date will be set.

      Thanks for commenting,

      Kevin

      • I meant far as being served to be in court so yea that may have sounded awkward when I said I’ve never know it to take this long…but even with that I have been thru this process before (truthfully speaking)… But still never took this long but thanks for the feedback

  7. There was a note left on my door that a writ of possession had been filed today. How many days do I have until they come to set my things out?

  8. Brittany Sturden on

    Hi Kevin i have a question I filed an eviction on a tenant and he didnt show in court but before the 10 days was up he came and paid in full. Now a fews month later he is late again do i have to refile the eviction to get him out

  9. Hi Kevin,
    I understand in this economy that property owners need to be able to collect rent or have the property vacated to lease it to another renter if the current tenant is not paying their rent. Landlords are not UNICEF. However, it disturbs me that you describe the period after the 10 days given to the tenant to move out as the “fun” part of the process of eviction. Even if the comment was meant as ‘tongue-in-cheek,’ it still portrays you as someone who is completely disconnected in the landlord/tenant relationship. What if the reason that your tenant has been late on payment because his or her spouse suddenly was injured and could not work? What if a child in the household was diagnosed with a catastrophic illness and your tenants used their monetary resources for medical expenses? More common (in today’s workforce), what if the primary breadwinner was layed off and is in the process of seeking a new job?
    I am not implying that you become some sort of therapist for your tenants, but certainly “fun” would not be my chosen description of forcibly removing a family’s belongings to the curb.
    I have come to realize that for many people, money is god, but it still never fails to disappoint me when I see that fact so blatantly reinforced in public.
    It is difficult for rental property owners, no doubt, to have to go through this process. But a little sensitivity and cooperation could go a long way in the long run when a situation arises involving late payment of rent. I do hope you will consider this – thanks :)

  10. Hello, after 18 months of a horrible leaking roof with the help of an Attorny it was finally fixed.
    I lost a considerable amount of inventory and money. At times actually having to have the power turned off. The light fixtures filled with water…more than half the place had to be farmed and huge tubs everywhere!
    Now I was finally getting everything back in order. I was robbed, yep. I informed the landlord and police. I talked to the landlord about only having part of the rent. He agreed to let me catch up over the next 2-3 months. Any money I made I turned it over to them. The landlord didn’t stay true to his word and had filled for eviction. Within a couple days of that I was able to catch up and actually paid the next month’s rent early. He told me he was stopping the eviction and not to worry about it. Well A month after the notices started to show up. The landlord said it was just protocol and not to worry about it.
    From what I’ve read if I don’t show up to court I lose…also can they really evict me when I paid? Is he setting me up here?

    • Kevin Perk

      L.K.N.

      Yep, if you do no show up to court, you lose. So go to court.

      Are you in a commercial building? it sounds like it. If so there is no landlord tenant act that applies. It is the wild west so to speak.

      You have learned a valuable lesson. Get everything in writing! Do it from now on. You and your landlord need to write down any agreement and both of you sign and date it. This will protect you.

      Your landlord may just be trying to protect himself or he may be being a jerk, I cannot tell. But right now all you have in court is a he said/she said while your landlord has a lease and non payments.

      Get everything in writing from now on. You might also want to look for a new space so you can fire your landlord.

      Good luck,

      Kevin

      • Well after finally having a horrible roof fixed, (18 months or so). Clean up/repair commenced.
        Then the robberies got worse and worse. One robber Actually hit me with her car as she fled. Another client turned employee stuffed the garbage with priceless as well as personal antiques. My heart still breaks. Anyway my lease is up and we agreed free rent while I moved. And I wouldn’t sue.
        Then I couldn’t make the deadline and actual eviction has started (private company). Where can I go to find the date they show up? Is it best for the Landlord to let me continue cleaning/removing? The back is a mess from ruined furniture and homeless guys stuff. Oh and the last robbery/asalt was a mere few days ago.
        Working day and night,
        Ms LKN

  11. Rayna Graves on

    Hi Kevin must the tenant be served a writ of possession? Furthermore, if the items are removed by the landlord, if asked must the landlord tell the tenant where the items were taken? Also, if no sheriff was present during the removal, is this illegal?

    • Kevin Perk

      Rayna,

      Usually. And usually the landlord will just place the items on the curb during an eviction. Not sure about your last question, may depend on local practices. Please get some competent legal advice on these issues and your unique circumstances.

      Kevin

  12. Question.
    Foreclosure….how does this effect eviction. The Tennessee Housing Development Agency bought the loan and my in-laws recieved a court date that they are planning on missing (they said they will be claiming they did not receive it – it was taped to the door). What happens then? Will they have to be served with a Writ of Possession too?

  13. The process here in GA is very similar. You can file dispossessory warrant$70.00 on the 6th. Sheriff tacks summons on door. Tenant has 10 days to answer. If they answer, you get a court date to see if they pay or not or if you just want to evict.

    If they don’t answer, then the lease is terminated..ie you get possession of the property. Then you may file writ of possession and pay $25.00 to have a Sheriff keep the peace during eviction on a pre-determined date where personal belongings are place outside the house with a crew you are responsible for hiring.

    Change the locks and you can prep the unit rent. The process can takes about 30 days more if you live in a populous locality where processing offices gets backed up.

    Much shorter process than many places in the Northeast or California!

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